ENGLEWOOD — In the mid-20th century, the area around 63rd and Halsted streets rivaled what's now the Magnificent Mile.
“It was a booming area. We had all different kinds of stores," said 86-year-old Obbie Nephew about the 1960s when she moved her family to the neighborhood. "We would rather shop on 63rd Street than go downtown. It was really nice. It was a good neighborhood.”
Longtime neighborhood residents acknowledge that the luster of the past is long gone, especially since the white population fled in the 1960s and 1970s, and stores like the seven-story flagship Sears that anchored a three-block stretch of shops for nearly four decades shuttered.
Those same residents today are encouraged by the much-heralded $362-million Englewood Square development, set to open next year at the intersection.
"It is an area that transitioned from a great place to a desolate place," said Glen Fulton, executive director of the Greater Englewood Community Development Corporation. "Now we think we can bring it back."
The Englewood Square development will feature retailers who just a couple years ago were considered unlikely to do business in the neighborhood. Whole Foods Market and Starbucks are both expected to open next year at 63rd and Halsted streets.
Englewood Square lot in July 2015. [DNAinfo/Andrea Watson]
Residents like Nephew say that the development will help keep people in Englewood. The new Whole Foods will help because right now “there is nothing else in this neighborhood, you have to travel out," Nephew said.
Other locations in the development also have been filled.
"We don't have any more room for retailers," Fulton said. "In the past, we couldn't get them to come, and now we are out of space."
Back in the mid-1900s, that part of Englewood was booming, full of clothing, jewelry and other stores, according to a map of businesses now archived at the Chicago History Museum.
Englewood, 1937 [Chicago History Museum]
Fulton, whose office is at 815 W. 63rd St. where the Kresge store once stood, acknowledges that the neighborhood has a long way to go toward restoring its former vibrance, but says it's been moving in that direction since Kennedy-King College opened its new campus there in 2007.
After Englewood Square is open, Fulton will work to bring developments mixing retail and housing to the neighborhood.
"In the next five years you will see a whole new community," Fulton said.
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